Wildlife photographer of the year: “Explosive Sex” wins first prize

By Jonathan Amos
BBC Science Correspondent

Image source, Laurent Ballesta / WPY

It’s like an explosion underwater. Several camouflaged groupers rush to release their sperm as a female fish drops a flurry of eggs.

This image taken on the Fakarava Atoll in the Pacific earned Laurent Ballesta the prestigious title of Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY).

Jury president Roz Kidman Cox said it was a technical feat.

“It’s partly the setting, taken during a full moon, but also the timing, knowing when to take the picture.”

The annual laying of camouflaged groupers takes place in July. It is known to attract up to 20,000 fish, as well as many reef sharks looking for a meal. Overfishing threatens groupers, but this photo was taken on a reserve which provides them with some protection.

“We spent five years in this place, 3000 hours of diving, to get this particular moment,” Laurent said.

“I am attached to this photo because of the shape of the cloud of eggs: it looks like an upside down question mark. This is about the future of these eggs because only one in a million will (survive) adulthood, but it is perhaps more symbolic of the future of nature. This is a very important question about the future of nature.

In addition to celebrating the WPY Grand Prix, the French photographer also wins the Underwater category of the competition.

Image source, Vidyun R Hebbar / WPY

Vidyun R Hebbar, 10, from India, is the Junior Wildlife Photographer of the Year for this photo of a tent spider in his web. The image is called Dome Home.

The blurry green and yellow colors in the background belong to one of those three-wheeled tuk-tuk taxis.

“Its focus is precise,” Roz Kidman Cox told BBC News. “You can actually see the little fangs if you make the image bigger. I love the way it was framed and the way you can see the whole texture of the canvas, its lattice structure.”

Vidyun recalls, “It was difficult to focus the tent spider because the web shook with every passing vehicle.”

Launched in 1964, the WPY is organized by the Natural History Museum in London.

The competition attracts tens of thousands of entries each year. Scroll down to see some of the winners from the individual categories.

Elephant in the House by Adam Oswell, Australia

Image source, Adam Oswell / WPY

Adam oswell wins the Photojournalism prize for this photo which shows visitors to a zoo in Thailand watching a young elephant perform underwater. Elephant tourism has increased across Asia. In Thailand, there are now more elephants in captivity than in the wild.

The Healing Touch, from Community care by Brent Stirton, South Africa

Image source, Brent Stirton / WPY

Brent Stirton moved back Photojournalist Story Award. His sequence of images shows a rehabilitation center caring for chimpanzees orphaned by the bushmeat trade in Africa. The director of the center presents a newly rescued chimpanzee to other people in her care.

Face to Face by Stefano Unterthiner, Italy

Image source, Stefano Unterthiner / WPY

WPY always has great photos of snow and this one wins the Behavior: Mammals Category. Stefano Unterthiner watch two Svalbard reindeer fight for control of a harem. Watching the fight Stefano said he felt immersed in “the smell, the noise, the fatigue and the pain”.

Reflection of Majed Ali, Kuwait

Image source, Majed Ali / WPY

Majed Ali walked for four hours to meet Kibande, an almost 40-year-old mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda. “The higher we went, the hotter and more humid it was,” recalls Majed. This photo, which shows Kibande as refreshing rains begin to fall, wins the Animal Portraits Category.

Road to the Ruin by Javier Lafuente, Spain

Image source, Javier Lafuente / WPY

that of Javier Lafuente The photo shows the straight, austere line of a road cutting the curves of a wetland landscape that is home to over a hundred species of birds, with ospreys and bee-eaters among many migrating visitors. The road, built in the 1980s to provide access to a beach, divides the wetland in two. Image wins Wetlands: the big picture Category.

Spinning the cradle by Gil Wizen, Israel / Canada

Image source, Gil Wizen / WPY

Gil wizen is an expert entomologist and photographer. This fishing spider stretches the silk of its spinnerets to weave it in its egg sack. These spiders are common in the humid areas and temperate forests of eastern North America. Image wins Behavior: Invertebrates Category.

NHM’s annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition opens on Friday, October 15, ahead of a tour across the UK and abroad to locations in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, in Germany, the United States and more.

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